September 2nd, 2018

as reported by Sarah Meehan in the Baltimore Sun

Morgan State reaches deal to redevelop Northwood Plaza with Barnes and Noble and Grocery Store

Morgan State University has reached a deal with developers to revamp the nearby Northwood Plaza shopping center, the president of the university said.

Morgan State President David Wilson said the center’s existing buildings will be razed and replaced with new shops under a project with local developers. He announced the redevelopment this week on Twitter.

Developer Mark Renbaum, of MLR Partners, said his firm will partner with MCB Real Estate and the shopping center’s existing owners on the project.

The $50 million redevelopment will roll out in two phases, Renbaum said.

The first phase is slated to incorporate 70,000 square feet of retail space, including a Barnes & Noble College bookstore with a Starbucks, and 20,000 square feet of office space to house Morgan State University’s public safety department.

The project’s second phase will entail constructing an additional 30,000 to 35,000 square feet of retail space, most of which will be occupied by a grocery store, Renbaum said. His group is in talks with several potential grocers.

Demolition will begin early this fall, when all of the existing structures on the site will be razed, Renbaum said. Construction is expected to begin next year, and Renbaum hopes both phases of the project will debut simultaneously in 2020.

The shopping center at 1534 Havenwood Road has long been an eyesore and hub for crime in Northeast Baltimore’s Hillen neighborhood. The site has been scouted for a range of redevelopment projects, from student housing to retail developments, but no previous proposals have come to fruition.

“This has been a long time coming,” Renbaum said. “Like, a really long time coming.”

Renbaum said he hopes the shopping center provides another draw for prospective Morgan students, as well as shopping, eating and health care amenities for nearby residents. He declined to detail other tenants set to join the retail portion, but said he’s received letters of intent from national and local vendors.

“This project represents a major coming together of so many different stakeholders, including the community — really the community surrounding in Northeast Baltimore — the university, the state of Maryland and the city,” Renbaum said. “And each of these different stakeholders has a tremendous vested interest in [its] success.”

Wilson declined to elaborate on the project when reached by phone Friday.

In March, the Baltimore City Council voted to support millions in tax breaks aimed at sparking the plaza’s redevelopment through the state’s Regional Institution Strategic Enterprise Zone program. The RISE program provides property and employment tax credits for businesses within the zones, which are centered around higher education institutions and non-profits affiliated with federal agencies.

The institutions form a strategy to attract businesses and create jobs in the zones. Part of Morgan State’s strategy is increasing security in the area, said Abigail McKnight, a tax specialist with the Maryland Department of Commerce.

“It’s great because what it’s doing is it’s developing not only the university … but the community around the university will benefit from the redevelopment of Northwood Plaza,” said Mark Vulcan, a program manager for tax incentives with the Maryland Department of Commerce.